Marc-Andre Hamelin | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Marc-Andre Hamelin 

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Though little-known in Chicago, Canadian Marc-Andre Hamelin is one of the most technically phenomenal pianists playing anywhere today. His shockingly underattended Ravinia recital last summer was a revelation: the Ives Concord Sonata was brilliant, and the Schumann Fantasy was so riveting I don't think anyone in the room breathed. He's also fascinating to watch, hardly moving even when the music is at its most demanding and emotionally intense. At first this makes him seem disconnected, but his concentration is Zen-like--it's as if he becomes a conduit for the composer, and everything but the music ceases to exist. A pianist's pianist, he's better recognized elsewhere in this country and certainly overseas--he's achieved cult status in London, where his label, Hyperion, lets him record whatever he wants, however obscure. For this Ravinia recital he'll play three Liszt opera transcriptions that are actually virtuosic original works using thematic material from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, Verdi's Ernani, and Bellini's Norma. Hamelin will also play 9 of Godowsky's 48 studies based on Chopin etudes--nearly impossible to play, they create three- and four-handed effects even when written for the left hand alone. In his outstanding recording of the studies, for which he won Gramophone's instrumental award in 2000, Hamelin is dazzling, paying superb attention to detail and bringing individual voices out of the swirl of sound. Also on the program will be Bulgarian composer Vladigerov's Sonatina Concertante, op. 28. Even if you're not sure these are pieces you want to hear, it's worth hearing and seeing Hamelin play them--no one in the world would do them better. Wed 8/24, 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $25 and $40.

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